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Technology – One Byte at a Time

June 10, 2009

Robert Brownstone, Law & Technology Director at Fenwick & West, was interviewed as an expert on electronic information and records retention during the Computer Outlook Radio Talk Show "Technology – One Byte at a Time."

For many an IT director, there is a disconnect between operating a company's systems and administering legally imposed requirements as to retention of certain information. Managing networks, updating virus protection software and troubleshooting IT glitches is enough to keep multiple IT leaders busy; and there is seldom the time or resources to understand the laws that govern the implications of a business' computer technology choices.

This disconnect between law and technology may not surface as a problem until a company is faced with a lawsuit that forces it to gather, review and produce electronically stored information (ESI), including emails, standalone documents such as contracts and database records as to a company's finances. Brownstone often sees a corporate leader and an IT director scramble as a reaction to litigation because the organization did not proactively establish a relevant process or point person.

For the smaller companies that cannot afford to keep a law firm on retainer, Brownstone suggests that they at least get advice as to key legal obligations to keep information regarding taxes, health and safety and employee records.

Even more important for risk management and litigation-preparedness is getting a handle on what a company has and where. Every organization should at least make a checklist of its ESI repositories, including its: e-mail system; databases; shared network drives; and internal and external websites, wikis and blogs.

A few principles of electronic information management these days include: less is more, i.e., the less information you have in fewer places, the better; wherever possible, require or at least incent the storage of information in central locations; and, for disaster-recovery/business-continuity purposes, back up all key data in two physical locations.